Teenager with Mesothelioma Raises Cancer, Research Awareness

People kayaking on a river

Mark Wells spent more than five hours paddling his kayak through a 16-mile route down the Hudson River a year ago in hopes of raising awareness for mesothelioma cancer. He was joined by two others.

Close to 200 will be alongside him this year. He will be leading a fleet. Awareness has been raised.

“The response has been overwhelming. I’ve been blown away by the support,” Wells said from Mechanicville, New York. during a phone interview. “I just wanted to do it last year to make a statement. I had no idea it would grow like this.”

His “statement” has ballooned into Kayaking4aCure, one of a handful of mesothelioma-related events around the country this weekend that are designed to raise awareness and raise money for much-needed mesothelioma research.

Wells is expected to raise more than $10,000 at Saturday’s event, which will attract considerable attention locally with live radio updates and some television highlight coverage.

Wells is the father of Linda Wells, a peritoneal mesothelioma survivor who was one of the youngest people in America ever diagnosed with the disease in 2002. She was 16 years old at the time.

Raising Awareness for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused almost exclusively by asbestos fibers, and most often caused by occupational or military exposure. Because the latency period normally is lengthy (10 to 50 years), the average age at diagnosis is 65.

“It (his daughter’s diagnosis) was shocking to us. At the time, I had never heard of mesothelioma, and the more and more I learned about it, the more shocking it was,” Wells said. “For someone so young, it was unheard of.”

Linda has undergone six major surgeries since the diagnosis, and she returns for testing every six months to check on any potential problems. Living with uncertainty isn’t always easy.

“She’s a fighter, a real trooper,” Wells said. “She’s not feeling great right now, but she’ll be at the event. She is excited about what we’re doing. She is still out and about, getting around. Considering what she’s been through, she’s doing pretty well.”

Wells never will know for sure where Linda’s asbestos exposure came. He suspects it could have been in any number of places. But he does know now that he is making a difference. And that wasn’t always the case.

“I always wanted to do something to raise awareness, but never knew exactly what to do,” he said. “It’s a pretty helpless feeling. But doing something like this now helps me, and we hope it helps others down the line. I know they need money for research, and anything we can do is good.”

When this week began, more than 150 people had registered and paid to kayak as part of the event. Many will travel considerable distance to be there Saturday morning. Wells expects that many more will show up unannounced Saturday morning just to participate.

There will be at least two other mesothelioma survivors in the group that will gather for the launch at Fort Hardy Park in Schuylerville, N.Y. Cure Meso t-shirt in three different colors will be worn. Survivors will be wearing red, family members gray, and the sea of supporters will be in blue. A local hospital, without being asked, will be providing goody bags for everyone who takes the trip down the river.

“I know people have done runs, walks, bikes, to help the cause,” he said. “I just wanted something a little different, to help make a difference.”

Weekend of Fundraising for Mesothelioma

Other events this weekend:

  • The first Zumbathon in the Park for Mesothelioma will be held Friday night, Sept. 21, in Eleanor Park, Eleanor, W.VA. It is part of the third annual OD’s Benefit for Meso Event, which also includes a 5K Walk/Run and Gospel Sing, Saturday at Eleanor Park.

  • The first Gary Batch 5K Run/Walk for Meso will be held Saturday at Waterford Beach Park, in Waterford, CT. Batch was firefighter in New London, CT for 40 years and died at age 68, just three years after his retirement.

  • The 4th annual Alton Miles for Meso 5k Race and FunRun/Walk will be Saturday morning in Alton, Illinois.

  • The first Bruce A. Waite Miles for Meso 5K Walk/Run in Ontario, Ohio, will be Sunday afternoon at Ontario (Ohio) High School. The race is on honor of Waite, an avid runner who logged an estimated 76,000 miles during his life.

  • The 3rd annual Dog Walk for Mesothelioma Cancer will be Sunday afternoon at the Ontario County Pathways in Phelps, NY. The event is sponsored by the Phelps Veterinary Hospital and in memory of Dr. Jack Wright.

Money raised at all the events this weekend will be funneled to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a national organization dedicated to finding a cure for mesothelioma by funding promising research projects around the world.


Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at tpovtak@asbestos.com

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